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Dashiell Hammett: The Complete Novels [Hardcover]

Dashiell Hammett
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 13 1999 Library of America (Book 110)
Complete in one volume, the five books that created the modern American crime novel

In a few years of extraordinary creative energy, Dashiell Hammett invented the modern American crime novel. In the words of Raymond Chandler, "Hammett gave murder back to the kind of people that commit it for reasons, not just to provide a corpse.... He put these people down on paper as they were, and he made them talk and think in the language they customarily used for these purposes."

The five novels that Hammett published between 1929 and 1934, collected here in one volume, have become part of modern American culture, creating archetypal characters and establishing the ground rules and characteristic tone for a whole tradition of hardboiled writing. Drawing on his own experiences as a Pinkerton detective, Hammett gave a harshly realistic edge to novels that were at the same time infused with a spirit of romantic adventure. His lean and deliberately simplified prose won admiration from such contemporaries as Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, and William Faulkner.

Each novel is distinct in mood and structure. Red Harvest (1929) epitomizes the violence and momentum of his Black Mask stories about the anonymous detective the Continental Op, in a raucous and nightmarish evocation of political corruption and gang warfare in a western mining town. In The Dain Curse (1929) the Op returns in a more melodramatic tale involving jewel theft, drugs, and a religious cult. With The Maltese Falcon (1930) and its protagonist Sam Spade, Hammett achieved his most enduring popular success, a tightly constructed quest story shot through with a sense of disillusionment and the arbitrariness of personal destiny. The Glass Key (1931) is a further exploration of city politics at their most scurrilous. His last novel was The Thin Man (1934), a ruefully comic tale paying homage to the traditional mystery form and featuring Nick and Nora Charles, the sophisticated inebriates who would enjoy a long afterlife in the movies.

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Dashiell Hammett: The Complete Novels + Chandler: Stories & Early Novels + Chandler: Later Novels & Other Writing
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Product Description

From Library Journal

It was a big year for Hammett. He was the subject of a TV film as well as an American Masters TV biography. Knopf, his original publisher, gathered 20 early stories, and the Library of America added his complete novels to its prestigious ranks. Long overdue recognition. (Classic Returns, LJ 8/99)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Steven Marcus, a distinguished literary critic and cultural historian, is George Delacorte Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic crimes Sept. 7 2003
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
He's known best for the creation of Sam Spade and the Maltese Falcon. But Dashiell Hammet was responsible for a lot more -- the hardboiled crime novel as we know it today, with femme fatales, charmingly sinister crooks and cynical antiheroes.
"Red Harvest" introduces the Continental Op, cool-as-a-cucumber private detective who arrives in Personvilles (often pronounced "Poisonville") for a client, Donald Wilson, who has been suddenly murdered. Soon the Continental Op finds himself being hired by Donald's father Elihu to clean up Personville. To do so, he'll have to fight fire with fire, and play dirty with the many dangerous crooks.
"The Dain Curse" starts off with an ordinary diamond heist where things don't seem quite right. It soon leads the Continental Op to Gabrielle Leggett, a young woman with a drug habit, an attachment to a cult, a bizarre family secret, and who is convinced in the "Dain Curse" that has supposedly slain her entire family. The Op sets out to discover the origins of the cult and cure Gabrielle of her drug use...
"The Maltese Falcon" starts with a simple case, in which a young woman asks the private investigators Sam Spade and Miles Archer to trail her sister's lover. Except not only does she not have a sister, but she's wrapped up in a bizarre hunt for the priceless, elusive Maltese Falcon. Sam Spade must unravel a tangle of lies and murder to find out who killed Miles, and what is going on with the Falcon.
"The Glass Key presents Ned Beaumont, a gambler-turned-murder-investigator who has to start investigating when a Senator's son is murdered. What he uncovers is more than murder, but deception, desperate political games, gangsters and money.
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Format:Hardcover
I have reviewed each of these books separately. Having them all together in one volume is invaluable. And reading these consecutively is hardly boring, because there's a world of difference between them.
RED HARVEST featuring the Continental Op is a real romp through a completely corrupt town which gets what's coming to it because a corrupt police official makes the middle aged fat man protagonist mad. There's an underlying theme of corruption as a true poison.
THE DAIN CURSE is again the Continental Op, and here you see glimpses of a tender side to a character who is basically completely self controlled. And in this, you see the very weak female character turn into an admirably strong woman.
THE MALTESE FALCON is of course the true classic, a study of greed and deception. Sam Spade's story of a character named Flitcraft gives the reader the author's perspective on the randomness of life.
THE GLASS KEY gives a sleazy view of politics and makes a couple of points about friendship.
THE THIN MAN appears lightweight after the first four, but a second reading reveals a portrait of a very able person who allowed passion to leave his life, and is slowly going down the drain.
Crime fans will especially love this collection, but there is a whole lot of value concerning human nature and the framework of society here.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant writing, except for "The Thin Man" June 18 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
I had read some Raymond Chandler and found him to be too dense and boring (at least his early stories). Hammett went beyond detective fiction; his dialogue and descriptions of characters are first rate and should be the envy of writers everywhere. While some of the detective plots tend to get a little out of hand, they always resolve well.
His last novel "The Thin Man" is his weakest work. Again, the dialogue is crisp, and the descriptions of characters fantastic. The only problem is that the plot makes no sense and seems to ramble on forever with very little to tie anything together. The final ending doesn't resolve a lot of the open plot issues, and the book is a failure for this reason.
I recently saw the film made out of the book with William Powell. The screenwriters were left with the horrible task of making the plot make sense and resolve it cleaning. They chopped the book to pieces, but they had no choice. If the film did show all the plot points in the book, the film would have been a massive failure.
Why did Hammett cease to write? I think one of the causes is his last novel "The Thin Man". It seems that because of his serious drinking problem, he couldn't develop plots that made sense anymore. If you think about it, Nick and Nora (in the book and film) are both alcholics (they go way beyond social drinking).
Another reason he stopped writing was that he helped out his wife Lillian Hellman a great deal of the time with her plays. In a sense, he sacrificed his writing career to hers.
With all this in mind, I would buy the book. Except to be confused and impatient with his plot in "The Thin Man".
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5.0 out of 5 stars Asta is a Schanuzer! July 13 2001
By George
Format:Hardcover
The Thin Man was a popular series of films starring the unforgettable Myrna Loy and the talented William Powell. The films starred a wire fox terrier that played the couples' dog, Asta. I think it is important to note that in Hammett's novel, Asta is actually a schnauzer. Also, the Thin Man in the films refers to Powell's character, and in the book it refers to one of the other characters. In any case, Hammett's novels are as fresh and as entertaining today as any top-notch detective writer. I think Patricia Cornwell should read some Hammett and learn how to inject a little levity into Scarpetta. That is one uptight woman!
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars just what I ordered
this was a gift for my son for Christmas. It was exactly what he asked for the price was good and it shipped fast.
Published 9 months ago by Cindy Herrick
4.0 out of 5 stars The First Modern Crime Writer
While I have been a keen consumer of quality crime writing since the mid '60's, I was only vaguely aware of Hammett (while being familiar with the film of the Maltese Falcon). Read more
Published 9 months ago by Kevin Pritchard
5.0 out of 5 stars Great crime stories
This publisher creates quality bound hardcover collections of a variety of American authors. The books are a pleasure both for their physical properties and their content. Read more
Published 13 months ago by Stephen Fudge
5.0 out of 5 stars Read and re-read
Hammett was the best writer ever to take to crime fiction. All his writing is lean and elegant.
The Dain Curse (his first novel) is not very good, but the other 4 are superb. Read more
Published on Dec 5 2002 by Ken Braithwaite
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best of Hard Boiled,plus a look at some rough lives...
during early Depression America. Each of these five classics shed light on the human condition,corruption, nastiness,and sometimes,redemption, and are as good now as 65-plus years... Read more
Published on Dec 27 2001 by Hans Castorp
5.0 out of 5 stars The Great Hammett
Wow. Finally the publishers are making what needs to be made more often.
Hammett reinvents the hard-boiled and hard-boiled is forever changed. Read more
Published on June 5 2001 by "mellyduck"
5.0 out of 5 stars Best collection of Dashiell Hammett Detective Novels
This is the best of the best when it comes to Dashiell Hammett. I am a long time fan and can say that Dashiell Hammett is coming into high fashion again. Read more
Published on Nov. 12 2000
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow!
A beautiful edition of beautiful stories. The Library of America consistently produces elegant, useful and durable editions of some of America's best literary works. Read more
Published on Sept. 26 2000 by Arion Potts
5.0 out of 5 stars "The stuff that dreams are made of"
What a joy to have all the novels of this American author and freedom-fighter in one place. This guy wrote the real thing, with unmatched concision, and all the Ellroys in the... Read more
Published on April 30 2000 by Jonathan Green
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